Among the items being considered at the upcoming April 12, 2019 Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) open meeting is possible regulatory forbearance of certain legacy regulatory and structural requirements applicable to Bell Operating Companies (“BOCs”), price cap local exchange carriers (“LECs”), and independent rate-of-return carriers (“RoR carriers”). Acting on a nearly year-old USTelecom petition, the FCC’s draft Memorandum Opinion and Order (“Order”) proposes to forbear from enforcement of three regulatory requirements: (i) that independent RoR carriers offer in-region long distance service through a separate affiliate (“structural separations”); (ii) that BOCs and price cap LECs do not discriminate in service provisioning intervals and that they file special access provisioning reports; and (iii) that BOCs provide nondiscriminatory access to poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way (collectively, “pole attachments”). However, the draft Order declines to decide on USTelecom’s request for forbearance from certain network unbundling and resale requirements. The Commission’s deferral on the unbundled network elements (“UNE”)/resale issue is not surprising in light of the significant industry and consumer opposition to this aspect of USTelecom’s petition. With the exception of the few comments supporting USTelecom’s petition, the vast majority of comments were relatively silent regarding the other forbearance requests. If adopted, the draft Order will be effective upon release.

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Back for its 10th year, our most popular webinar offers an in-depth discussion on the federal Universal Service Fund for participants in USF programs and for contributors to the Fund. This webinar will address major developments in the four support funds and discuss the pressures on the USF contribution system in an era of 20% contribution rates. In addition, as usual, we will offer tips and insights into managing audits and investigations in these highly scrutinized programs.

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In this edition of Full Spectrum’s recurring series on FCC enforcement, Partner Steve Augustino and Associate Brad Currier highlight some of the major developments in FCC enforcement in 2018 and discuss potential next steps in the year ahead.

Part one of this episode focuses on the big picture in 2018 and the FCC’s use of

Below is Kelley Drye’s preview of the items under consideration at the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s or Commission’s) upcoming monthly Open Meeting, to be held on August 3, 2017. Consistent with the trend since he took over the Commission, Chairman Ajit Pai continues to schedule a large number of items.  Indeed, for the seventh month in a row, the Commission has six or more items on its agenda.  This month, the agenda consists of eight items and has several items taking concrete steps to resolve proceedings or important questions presented to the Commission.  The areas covered skew heavily toward broadband deployment, with a CAF Phase II item, a Mobility Fund item and several spectrum items.  In addition, the Commission again has enforcement items on the agenda:  one (unidentified) item on the regular agenda and a one-item consent agenda involving an additional (unidentified) enforcement action.

The most significant agenda items are summarized below. Note: these brief summaries are based on draft items, which may differ from the final items released following the Open Meeting.  Please check with Kelley Drye after the meeting for more information on the items below.


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Commissioner Michael O’Reilly called for stronger enforcement action to combat unauthorized “pirate” radio broadcasters in a statement before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 25, 2017.  The Commissioner’s recommendations came during the Subcommittee’s hearing on draft legislation to reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”).  While the reauthorization bill does not focus on pirate enforcement and the issue normally is seen as non-controversial, it is a longstanding priority for the Commissioner.  In his statement, Commissioner O’Rielly not only advocated for increased fines against pirates, but also penalties against third parties that support pirates, such as building owners housing pirate stations or pirate station advertisers.  While it remains unlikely that the recommendations will result in near-term legislative action, Commissioner O’Rielly’s statement sends a clear message that pirate broadcasters and their supporters remain in his enforcement crosshairs.

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On July 12, 2017, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (“Bureau”) of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued a Public Notice encouraging communications service providers to implement certain “best practices” to avoid major service disruptions.  The Bureau’s recommendations come on the heels of recent major service outages caused by minor changes to service providers’ network management systems that knocked out 911 service.  These service disruptions are known as “sunny day” outages because they are not caused by weather-related issues or other disasters, but rather internal network management failures due to faulty software or botched upgrades.  The Bureau’s recommendations serve as a warning to service providers, but do not (at this time at least) have an enforceable effect on providers.

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CashThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reduced the penalty assessed against a long distance carrier by over $6 million in a Forfeiture Order issued earlier this week, after the carrier demonstrated an inability to pay the proposed fine.  In doing so, the FCC provided rare insight into how it assesses inability to pay claims raised by enforcement action targets and balances such claims against other forfeiture adjustment factors.  The Forfeiture Order provides the most recent detailed guidance about how a company’s finances can impact the FCC’s forfeiture analysis, but offers little comfort to low-margin businesses with limited net revenues.

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On April 3, 2017, President Trump signed into law a Congressional joint resolution eliminating new broadband and voice privacy rules set forth in a November 2016 order (the 2016 Privacy Order) by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (the Joint Resolution).  Members of Congress largely voted along partisan lines. The House approved the Joint Resolution by a 215-205 vote and the Senate approved it by a 50-48 vote.
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On Thursday, February 23, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a pair of forfeiture orders against pirate radio operators.  Each was subject to a $25,000 fine for allegedly continually operating unlicensed radio stations in violation of Section 301 of the Communications Act. 
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On February 15, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its first Commission-level consent decree since Chairman Pai’s process reform measure, discussed in our earlier blog post, which removed the Enforcement Bureau’s (Bureau) power to settle monetary enforcement actions originally issued by the FCC.  Settlement of this matter had been in the works for some time so one should not draw too many conclusions about what the FCC’s priorities will be going forward. There are, however, some differences in this Consent Decree when compared with the Bureau’s approach under the leadership of Travis LeBlanc that are worthy of note.

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